The Great Escape

Artist: Frank McCarthy
Format: UK Quad (30"x 40")
Condition: Excellent
Year: 1963


Based on the non-fiction book by real-life POW Paul Brickhill, “The Great Escape” has become a widely loved, endearing classic. Both the film and book chart the daring mass escape from Stalag Luft III prison that took place in 1943. Thought of as a highly secure camp, the escape saw a 106 metre underground tunnel constructed which led to the escape of 76 prisoners. All but 3 of the 76, who managed to travel into Sweden and Spain, were subsequently recaptured and of those, 50 were executed under Hitler’s orders.


There were many elements of John Sturges’s 1963 film that were fictionalised with changes being made for commercial reasons. Some characters were made up whilst others were based on an assortment of real people, Steve McQueen’s ‘Cooler King’ Captain Hilts is an example of the latter. Elsewhere, American involvement in the escape was significantly increased in the film when in reality it was more a result of British and Canadian efforts. McQueen, a well-known motor-enthusiast, also requested for the legendary motorcycle chase scene to be added, something which we have no qualms about!


The UK Quad poster for “The Great Escape” was designed by Frank McCarthy and was based on his work on the US 1-Sheet, see below courtesy of An action-packed and undeniably cool and iconic piece of film memorabilia, it offers great imagery of the escape and McQueen.


Interesting to note are the differences between the British and American posters. Whereas the Quad arguably offers far more dazzling and exciting image of the escape, the 1-Sheet incorporates a clever use of barbed wire graphics around the title. The taglines have also been changed to accommodate the respective audiences: The 1-Sheet declares “the great adventure! the great entertainment” whilst the Quad proclaims “A Glorious Saga of the R.A.F”. In the same vein, McQueen sports an R.A.F. tunic on the Quad (which he never wore on film) but American posters picture McQueen in a bomber jacket.


As evidenced through his work on “The Great Escape”, McCarthy had a natural, wonderful knack for illustrating action-packed, explosive combat scenes. For examples, see his masterful, canvas-covering and colourfully vivid designs for “The Dirty Dozen”, “The Ten Commandments”, “Once Upon a Time in the West” and for 1968’s “The Green Berets” (shown below courtesy of


This particular poster has been linen-backed.